Alison Cooper, the embattled ceo of Imperial Brands, plc—a large British multinational tobacco company—has announced her resignation.
The news comes one week after the company announced a major downgrade in its financial projections citing the regulation of e-cigarette and vaping products.
Cooper will remain as both ceo and on the board until a replacement is found.
“During her tenure as CEO the business has been significantly simplified and reshaped to strengthen its long-term growth potential, and more than £10 billion in dividends has been returned to shareholders,” said Mark Williamson, chairman of the board, in a statement. “I am pleased that Alison has committed to continue to lead the business until a successor is appointed, ensuring an orderly transition of responsibilities.”
Williamson himself announced in February he would be leaving the board, but has remained in his role as a successor has not been named.
Cooper worked for Imperial for two decades, nine of which were spent as ceo. Her position, both in the tobacco industry and in Britain in general, has been unique. At any given time, she has been one of, if not the only woman to be leading an FTSE 100 company, a composite of 100 larger companies traded on the London Stock Exchange.
In 2014, Cooper oversaw a $7.1 billion purchase of Kool, Winston and Salem cigarettes as well as blu e-cigarettes as part of a spin-off from the Reynolds-Lorillard deal.
But her job has become increasingly more challenging in recent years as investors have pushed for Imperial to perform better. In the last few years, attention has turned to the £13 billion ($16.5 billion) worth of debt that is on the company’s books. For reference, the company generated about £30 billion in revenue in 2018.
That debt led Imperial to announce a planned £2 billion divestiture of assets last year, which will include the company’s premium cigar businesses. Those include:
- Altadis U.S.A. — The company behind Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and others in the U.S.
- Casa de Montecristo — A chain of high end retail stores, some owned by Imperial and others owned by franchise operators.
- 50 percent stake in Habanos S.A. — A joint-venture with the Cuban tobacco monopoly in the company that controls the sales and marketing of Cuban cigars worldwide.
- JR Cigar — The second-largest cigar retailer in the world.
- Tabacalera de García — The world’s largest cigar factory.
An announcement regarding the sale of the premium cigar divisions is expected by the end of this year. Cooper’s announcement provided no further update on the sale of the cigar divisions.
Imperial’s stock is up slightly following Cooper’s announcement.